It's easy to be a man in rock and roll. The music world has always been more effortlessly navigated by men (straight-presenting white men, mostly), but Prince never took that easy route. Throughout his storied career, the singer, songwriter, musician and producer took every opportunity to collaborate with, mentor and work alongside women musicians with an effortless consistency and genuine interest — something most men of his caliber never seemed to catch on to.
From sharing iconic songs he wrote with up-and-coming singers to assembling his own bands featuring some of the best sidewomen in the business, Prince was always an equal opportunity player. He's already well known for creating with and for the likes of Chaka Khan, Madonna, The Bangles, Sheila E., Cyndi Lauper, and his own bands the Revolution, the New Power Generation, 3RDEYEGIRL, Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6, to name a few. Here, in honor of the the Purple One's work, we're showcasing just five lesser-known sonic partnerships between Prince and his peers. (For a full rundown of Prince's career-long relationships with his creative female counterparts, read Julianne Escobedo Shepard's "Prince Spent His Life Elevating and Mentoring Women" via Jezebel.)
5. Songwriting credits on Martika's Martika's Kitchen, 1991
Though Martika is best known for her late-'80s hit "Toy Soldiers," the singer turned to Prince for help on her sophomore album, 1991's Martika's Kitchen. Ushering the pop singer's sound fully into the '90s, Prince co-wrote a handful of songs on the record and penned the title track, which has his signature eroticism all over it. Though the album wasn't well received by music fans, Prince's work definitely aided in freeing Martika from the bubblegum image of Gloria, her memorable character on the kid-oriented music show Kids Incorporated (a Disney Channel wonder that also gave us Fergie, Mario Lopez and Brittany Murphy, to name a few.)
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4. Producer, Monie Love's "Born 2 B.R.E.E.D.," 1993
British MC Monie Love was first introduced to American audiences through her dynamic feature on Queen Latifah's "Ladies First" in 1989. She went on to prove her solo power with two releases in the early '90s, including the single "Born 2 B.R.E.E.D." which was produced by Prince. The song came out in 1993, the same year that Carmen Electra's self-titled debut was released — a record that connected Love and Prince once again when he asked the rapper to contribute lyrics to the album he was also producing.
3. Songwriter, Patti LaBelle's "Yo Mister," 1989
It's no secret that Prince wrote songs for big stars — Cyndi Lauper, Chaka Khan, the Bangles, Sheila E. — but his work on "Yo Mister" represents his role on a lesser-known track for a reigning queen of soul like Patti LaBelle. One of Prince's many, many skills was the ability to create fully realized fictional characters within the three-minute vignette of a pop song, and "Yo Mister" is a shining example of that.
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2. Songwriter, Celine Dion's "With This Tear," 1992
As he was known to do, Prince often gifted his songs to fellow artists, and "With This Tear" was one of thse songs. The track, written specifically for Celine Dion, landed on her self-titled album, which turned out to be her shot into international stardom, since it also featured the memorable duet "Beauty and the Beast," with Peabo Bryson.
1. Songwriter, “How Come You Don’t Call Me,” as performed by Alicia Keys, 2001
Though not written expressly for Alicia Keys, it was one of the few tracks in Prince's massive repertoire that he agreed to have another artist cover. Originally, Prince had released the song as "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore," a b-side to 1982's "1999" single and later as part of the soundtrack for Spike Lee's 1996 film Girl 6 — which Prince did all of the music for.
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